THE COUNTDOWN: teamLab Digitizes Kōchi Castle

Sponsored By: TAG Heuer  

Kōchi Castle lights up starting November 22 at 17:30 in Shikoku, Japan.

Ancient castles dot Japan's landscape, many dating back to the Sengoku period of the 15th and 16th century. Though they were built to last—and utilized more stone than typical Japanese structures—these fortresses were still primarily made of wood and most were repeatedly damaged or destroyed and rebuilt.

This month, one citadel is getting a new lease on life: From November 22 to January 6, Kōchi Castle in Shikoku will be filled with motion-sensitive colorful digital projections: On the outer stone walls, projections of animal and flowers grow and recede (and scatter as visitors approach) while the movement of waves is simulated through a three-dimensional display on the fusuma (sliding doors) connecting the castle's inner and outer sections. Outside, sculptural "eggs" that change colors continue the ethereal, futuristic atmosphere in the centuries-old stronghold.

Completed in 1611, Kōchi is one of just a dozen castles in Japan that remains relatively intact. And it's the only to retain both its original tenshu (keep) and palace, and to have all the original buildings in its honmaru, or innermost ring, still standing. (One main building was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1748, and the fortress underwent major restoration in the 1940s and '50s.) Kōchi Castle has appeared in films like Aaron Woolfolk's The Harimaya Bridge and Studio Ghibli's animated I Can Hear the Sea.

The installation is part of Digital City, an ongoing campaign by Japanese art collective teamLab to illuminate notable sites, including Usa Shrine on the Kunishin Peninsula and Tokyo's Mori Art Museum, to get people to reexamine their relationship with both their environment and each other.

"The paradigm in traditional art has been to treat the existence of other viewers as a nuisance," teamLab's Takashi Kudo told MutualArt. "If you are at an exhibition with no other viewers, for example, you're likely to think of yourself as extremely lucky. But in the exhibitions put together by teamLab, we encourage people to think of the presence of others as a positive factor."

The ovoid sculptures, for example pulse with light, as if breathing, and change colors when pushed. If a wave of light comes from the other side of the castle, it indicates there is another person in the area. As a result, visitors are made acutely aware of how the presence of others can impact a space. Kudo hopes they keep that enlightened perspective even after they leave Kōchi Castle.

"In modern cities, the presence of other people around us, as well as their unpredictable and uncontrollable behavior, is often seen as an inconvenience to be endured... If entire cities were to be wrapped in the type of digital art conceived of by teamLab, people would begin to see the presence of other residents in a more positive light."

Want to take home a piece of Japanese design for yourself? Streetwear legend Hiroshi Fujiwara and his Fragment label have collaborated with TAG Heuer on a new edition of the iconic TAG Heuer Carrera, first developed by Jack Heuer in 1963.

"Hiroshi Fujiwara is the only person whom we could ask to reinterpret this iconic model," said Jean-Claude Biver, non-executive chairman of LVMH Watch Division. "We were more than happy to entirely hand him the reins."